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Objects and Objections of Ethnography

James Siegel

Publication Year: 2010

The essays in this volume, in all their astonishing richness and diversity, focus on the question of the other.Brimming with whole flotillas of new ideas, they delineate subtle and various ways in which that question can be made the basis of an ethnographic project.In them, the author responds to the invitations extended by a specific location rather than pursuing a codified method. And they examine many different socialities in many different locations-among them the Cornell University campus in the late seventies, the former Muse de l'Homme and the Quai Branly Museum in Paris, theIndonesian province of Aceh in the wake of the tsunami of 2004, and contemporary Indonesia, in the liminal figures of the Jew and the Chinese. The author meticulously traces how the social and cultural responses in each location are astonishingly different-in the form, say, of gorges, faces, garbage, and fetishes.Regrettably, these days anthropologists have a tendency to look for similarities rather than differences, to show how one phenomenon is just likeanother. This book stands determinedly against this trend, both in its ethnographic examinations and in how it takes up such figures as Kant, Derrida, Bataille, Simmel, and Leiris so as to illuminate not only the objects of ethnography but also differences among the perspectivesthese thinkers represent.This book will put the methods and objects of anthropology in an entirely new light. In addition, it will speak to the concerns of historians, political scientists, and scholars of area studies, literature, and art.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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p. v

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pp. 1-2

When I began my first work as an anthropologist, I was lost but I did not know it. Living in Sumatra, I learned the national language and the local language; I established myself and my wife in a beautiful wooden house set on stilts in a shady village in the midst...

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1. Georg Simmel Reappears: ‘‘The Aesthetic Significance of the Face’’

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pp. 3-20

Michael Landmann, the editor of Georg Simmel’s collected works, tells this anecdote about him. Simmel had submitted a piece called ‘‘Psychological and Ethnological Studies on Music’’ as his doctoral dissertation. His examining committee refused...

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2. Academic Work: The View from Cornell

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pp. 21-41

Many American universities were founded outside cities, often in places that evoke the admiration of European visitors for their beauty and sometimes evoke surprise that one would think of having a university in such an environment. The attempt to separate...

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3. Kiblat and the Mediatic Jew

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pp. 42-75

Practically speaking, there are no Jews in Indonesia. Nor do Indonesians usually claim that there are. But it is now said that strong Jewish influence is corrupting Islam, sometimes disguised as orthodox Islamic truth and producing political unrest...

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4. The Curse of the Photograph: Atjeh 1901

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pp. 76-96

When I was in Aceh,1 the province of Indonesia on the northern tip of Sumatra, in 2000, I was not surprised to find nearly every Acehnese I met strongly against the government. Most people supported the Free Aceh Movement, which meant they wanted...

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5. The Hypnotist

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pp. 97-115

The tsunami that struck parts of Asia in December 2004 struck hardest in Aceh, the province of Indonesia on the north coast of Sumatra. Three years afterwards I took a trip through the coastal cities with two friends, Arief Djati, who works with...

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6. ‘‘Tout autre est tout autre’’

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pp. 116-153

The ‘‘other’’ taken into account by ethnography has been the peoples of different cultures. That type of otherness is suspect today, suspect to such a degree that the practice of ethnography, particularly in the United States, has been revised. One is not surprised...


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pp. 155-176


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p. 177

Original Publication

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p. 179

E-ISBN-13: 9780823249138
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823232741
Print-ISBN-10: 0823232743

Page Count: 192
Publication Year: 2010

OCLC Number: 708566776
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Objects and Objections of Ethnography

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Ethnology -- Philosophy.
  • Ethnology -- Fieldwork.
  • Material culture.
  • Ethnology -- Indonesia.
  • Indonesia -- Social life and customs.
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